What is it about Iowa State Fair food that gets us so excited?
A panel of celebrity judges picked a Best New Deal winner and two finalists for the Best New Food as the Iowa State Fair unveiled all the new foods for 2018.
Many of us have had plenty of corn dogs, pork tenderloins on a stick, lemonade and funnel cake over the years at the Iowa State Fair.
But what about the foods at the Iowa State Fair make it, specifically, a "fair food?"
We asked two Iowans their thoughts.
"We encourage vendors to do something out of the ordinary, not just something people can do in their backyards," said Jo Reynolds, who's managed the Warren County Fair in Indianola for 20 years.
Reynolds is also the director for Zone 5 (including Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska) for the International Association of Fairs & Expositions. "To me, fair food is that 'something extra' and something fun. It's something you can't get anywhere else, both calorie-laden and delicious, that gets people talking. To me, that's what fair food is."
The fair starts Thursday and runs through Aug. 19.
This year, the top three new foods are:
- All Iowa Belly Up Burger from The Rib Shack
- Apple Eggroll from Applishus
- Brown Sugar Polk Belly on a Stick from Iowa Pork Producers
Sean Wilson, chef and owner of Proof, says the great thing about fair food is that it doesn't matter if it's the Iowa State Fair, the State Fair of Texas or the Big E (or Eastern States Exposition, which is New England's version of a state fair). The common thread you'll see is that many of the same kinds of foods do resurface in these different places.
"First and foremost, it's always going to create nostalgia for you," Wilson said. "I didn't grow up in Iowa, but when I go to the State Fair, it takes me back to being a kid, and that's one thing to love about it."
Wilson goes to JR Mini Donuts for a bag of hot, steaming donuts served right from the fryer after they've been sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. "Gotta have those little fat pillows of happiness," Wilson said. "The first thing I do is make a beeline for them. And no, I'm not gonna share."
New Foods at the Iowa State Fair
- Here's every new food for the 2018 Iowa State Fair
- Here are the top 3 new foods at the Iowa State Fair (and how to vote for your favorite)
- I tasted the Best New Foods at the Iowa State Fair and these were my scores